Friday, March 21, 2008


Lord Maha Vishnu is the "God of Protection" for all living creatures in this Universe according to the Hindu's. Vishnu (honorific: Sri Vishnu) also known as Narayana, Krishna, Rama, Madhava, Govinda, Nrisimha , etc is the Supreme Being (i.e., God ) or Ultimate Reality for Vaishnavas and a manifestation of Brahman in the Advaita or Smarta traditions of Hinduism. The Vishnu Sahasranama[1] describes Vishnu as the All-Pervading essence of all beings, the master of and beyond the past, present and future, the creator and destroyer of all existences, one who supports, sustains and governs the Universe and originates and develops all elements within.

In the Puranas, Vishnu is described as being the color of clouds (dark-blue), four-armed, holding a lotus, mace, conch and chakra (wheel). Vishnu is also described in the Bhagavad Gita as having a 'Universal Form' (Vishvarupa) which is beyond the ordinary limits of human sense perception [2].
Appearance :

Lord Vishnu is often portrayed resting on the huge serpent of Sesha. We see that the thousand heads of Sesha are all turned inward, representing a tranquil mind, and looking toward the Absolute Truth of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu is also seen in the yogic sleep called yoga-nidra. The yoga-nidra (yoga or the root yuj meaning to connect or join) is a cosmic sleep wherein the Lord is focused on the Infinite Reality of His own identity.

Lord Vishnu is also seen standing on the whirl of a lotus flower with four hands, which represent the four directions and indicates His absolute power in the four corners of the universe. Each hand holds an item, such as a disc, lotus, conch, and mace. Of the four items, the conch represents the five universal elements. When the conch is blown, it is said to produce a sound related to the original vibration of universal creation. The Lord also blows His conch in calling everyone to turn to the higher reality rather than remaining in the darkness of material existence. This calling is the inner voice which nudges all beings of conscience to seek the Absolute Truth. If man does not heed the call, then the Lord may still use His conch to cut asunder the ego and material attachments of those who do not turn toward the spiritual path.

The disc or chakra signifies the universal mind or awareness.3 It rids all darkness wherever it appears, and thus shows the path to higher awareness. The disc is called Sudarshan, the limitless power and light that destroys all forms of ignorance. Thus, Lord Vishnu allows it to cut off the heads of envious demons. It has six spokes and shows the revolving nature of the universe (maya) around an unmoving and changeless center. The Sudarshana Chakra, when shown alone, is often viewed as a person with four, eight, or sixteen arms, holding such items as a bow, arrow, trident, noose, and a poker. These are said to represent the will and power of the Lord to not only create but to also destroy the universe.

The mace represents the cosmic intellect or knowledge. It is called Kaumodaki, meaning that which captivates the mind. It is also associated with time, which destroys all, and is thus also related to Kali, the power of time.4 When pictured as a deity, it is viewed as a female with two hands, positioned in respect. The lotus being twirled in His hand shows the revolving or changing nature of the universe.5 It also indicates the real purpose of human existence, which the Lord invites all to follow.

The Vaijayanti garland (garland of victory) with five rows of flowers that the Lord wears indicates the five senses and the Lord’s illusory power which affect the senses.6 Its fragrance represents the subtle elements found within the material manifestation. All this reflects the Lord’s mastery of the whole universe, which is created out of the mixing or revolving of the five elements and the universal mind and intellect. The Srivatsa or lock of hair on the Lord’s chest, which indicates the Goddess of Fortune, represents the products of the material creation, or the objects of enjoyment for which all living beings seek. And the gem, called Kaustubha (Treasure of the Ocean) represents the one who enjoys these products. Thus, this world of the enjoyer and the enjoyed is but a piece of decoration for the Lord, a spark of His energy.

The various forms of Lord Vishnu are composed of the different arrangements of the four symbols He holds in His four hands. For example, in one form He holds the conch in His lower right hand, the disc in His upper right, the mace in His upper left, and lotus in the lower left. In this form He has the name of Keshava, meaning the Lord with long hair, according to the Padma Purana (Book Four, Chapter 79).

In other forms, in which case He holds the items in different hands, He has the names that include, Narayana (the universal shelter), Govinda (saver of the Earth and protector of cows), Madhava (Lord of knowledge), Madhusudana (the destroyer of the demon Madhu), Trivikrama (the one who conquered the three planetary systems), Vamana (the dwarf incarnation), Shridhara (the possessor of fortune), Hrishikesha (Lord of the senses), Padmanabha (whose navel produced the universal lotus), Damodara (who is self-restrained), Sankarshana (who reabsorbs), Vasudeva (one who dwells within), Pradyumna (who has the most wealth), Aniruddha (who no one can oppose), Purushottama (best of all men), Adhoksaja (the expanse of the universe), Nrisimha (the half-man and half-lion form), Achyuta (the inconceivable), Krishna (the dark and all-attractive one), Hari (He who removes obstacles or sorrow), Janardana (He who gives rewards), and Upendra (the brother of Indra). Many other names of Lord Vishnu are found in the Vishnu-sahasranam, the Thousand Names of Vishnu, located in the Anushasan Parva (149.14-120) of the Mahabharata.

Vishnu Avatars :

There are ten avatars of Vishnu (dashavatara) commonly considered as the most prominent[14]:
Matsya, the fish.
Kurma, the turtle.
Varaha, the boar.
Narasimha, the Man-Lion (Nara = man, simha = lion).
Vamana, the Dwarf Brahmin (priest).
Parashurama, Rama with the axe, who appeared in the Treta Yuga.
Rama, Sri Ramachandra, the prince and king of Ayodhya.
Krishna (meaning 'dark coloured' or 'all attractive') appeared in the Dwapara Yuga along with his brother Balarama. Balarama is included as the eighth or ninth Dasavatara in some versions of the list which either contain no reference to Buddha, or list Krishna as the source of all avatars (this viewpoint is specific to Gaudiya and Nimbarka sampradayas).[15]
Buddha (meaning 'the enlightened one') appeared in the Kali Yuga (specifically as Siddhartha Gautama).
Kalki ("Eternity", or "time", or "The Destroyer of foulness"), who is expected to appear at the end of Kali Yuga, the time period in which we currently exist.

Purpose & Function :

To begin explaining the purpose and function of these Vishnu expansions, the Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.6.42) describes that, “Maha-Vishnu (Karanadakashayi Vishnu) is the first incarnation of the Supreme Lord in the process of creating the material worlds. He is the master of eternal time, space, cause and effects, mind, elements, material ego, the modes of nature, senses, the universal form of the Lord (Garbhodakashayi Vishnu) and the sum total of all living beings, both moving and nonmoving.”

It is further explained that Maha-Vishnu, who appears in the Karana Ocean and is an incarnation of Lord Sankarshana, becomes the resting place of the jiva-shakti.16 This is the collective energy of the individual spirit souls, the jivatmas. “There is one marginal potency, known as the jiva. Maha-Sankarshana is the shelter of all jivas.”17 It is this Sankarshana who is the original source of all living entities because they are expansions of His marginal potency. Some become conditioned by the material energy while others are under the protection of the spiritual nature.18

Lord Maha-Vishnu is the source of thousands of avataras in His thousands and thousands of subjective portions. He is the creator of countless individual souls. He is also known by the name of Narayana, meaning the shelter of all the individual jiva souls. From Him springs forth the vast expanse of water known as the spiritual Causal Ocean wherein the material creation takes place. Maha-Vishnu then reclines in the waters of the Causal Ocean in a state of divine sleep, called yoga-nidra. Thus, it is said that the universal creation is but the dream of Maha-Vishnu.19

In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.87.50) when the personified Vedas are offering their prayers to Lord Narayana [Maha-Vishnu], they relate His all-powerful position. “He is the Lord who eternally watches over this universe, who exists before, during and after its manifestation. He is the master of both the unmanifest material energy and the spirit soul. After sending forth the creation He enters within it, accompanying each living entity. There He creates the material bodies and then remains as their regulator. By surrendering to Him one can escape the embrace of illusion, just as a dreaming person forgets his own body. One who wants liberation from fear should constantly meditate upon Him, Lord Hari, who is always on the platform of perfection and thus never subject to material birth.”

The Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.9.16-18) relates that the Lord of the universe, Narayana, Maha-Vishnu, is the worshipable Lord of all beings. With no other assistance, the Lord creates the universe by His own potency, and at the time of annihilation He destroys the universe through His expansion of time. He withdraws the complete universe and all materially conditioned living beings into Himself. In this way, His unlimited Self is the shelter and reservoir of all potencies. The Lord stands alone after the universal annihilation. He is the supreme worshipable object for all beings, such as liberated souls, demigods, and ordinary conditioned souls. He is eternally free from the material energy and constitutes the totality of spiritual bliss, which one can experience by seeing the Lord’s spiritual form. Thus the Lord exhibits the full meaning of liberation.

This is all a part of the process of how the Lord and His expansions of Vishnu maintain the world. As mankind engages in acts of sacrifice or spirituality, which simply means the worship of the Supreme, the Lord and the demigods are automatically satisfied to supply everyone with all necessities of life. In this way, there can be proper cooperation between man, nature and God so that everyone can be peaceful and content with the facilities for living in this world.